The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Parasite and a Nation's Neglect of a Deadly Disease
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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Pädagogik
Who does the United States take care of, and who does it leave behind? A riveting investigation of infectious disease, poverty, racism, and for-profit healthcare, and the harm caused by decades of silence.
While growing up in a New Jersey factory town, Daisy Hernández believed that her aunt had become deathly ill from eating an apple. No one in her family, in either the United States or Colombia, spoke of infectious diseases or deadly parasites, and even into her thirties, she only knew that her aunt had died of a rare disease called Chagas. But as Hernández dug deeper, she discovered that Chagas—or the kissing bug disease—is more prevalent in the United States than the Zika virus. Today, more than 300,000 Americans have Chagas.
Why do some infectious diseases make headlines and others fall by the wayside? After her aunt's death, Hernández began searching for answers about who our nation chooses to take care of and who we ignore. Crisscrossing the country, she interviews patients, epidemiologists, and even veterinarians with the Department of Defense. She learns that outside of Latin America, the United States is the only country with the native insects—the “kissing bugs”—that carry the Chagas parasite and she spends a night in Southwest Texas hunting the dreaded bug with university researchers. She also gets to know patients, like a mother whose premature baby was born infected with the parasite, his heart already damaged from the disease. And she meets one cardiologist battling the disease in Los Angeles County with local volunteers.
The Kissing Bug tells the story of how poverty, racism, and public policies have conspired to keep this disease hidden—and why the notorious pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli began to pursue a cure for Chagas disease just weeks before he was arrested. A riveting and nuanced personal investigation into racial politics and for-profit healthcare in the United States, The Kissing Bug reveals the intimate history of a marginalized disease, and connects us to the lives at the center of it all.
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